Lake Waikaremoana is a lake located in the North Island of New Zealand, in the Te Urewera National Park, in the Huiarau mountain range.
It was born when dam was formed after a landslide. Most probably, the landslide was triggered by volcanic activity which is common in the region. The lake is 80 kilometers southwest of Gisborne and 60 kilometers northwest of Wairoa, and its name means "sea of rippling waters", in Maori Waikaremoana.
Lake Waikaremoana is a very popular holiday destination. Some of the most popular activities include: fishing, trekking, tramping, boating, kayaking, canoeing, swimming, walking, hiking, and more. It’s also the home of the Lake Waikaremoana Track, part of New Zealand’s "Great Walks". It is a tramp 44 kilometers long, taking 3 to 4 days to complete. It passes through forests and grasslands, offering unforgettable views of the lake. The track can be walked either as part of a guided group or independently.
Lake Waikaremoana is North Island’s deepest lake, located at an altitude of 600 meters, in the heart of Tuhoe country. A dam approximately 250 meters in height caused by a landslide formed the lake 2,200 years ago.
The lake is considered one of North Island’s most attractive areas. It is surrounded by wooded mountains with forests that have never been logged. Puketukutuku Peninsula and Panekiri Bluff are some of the lake’s most important geographical features, and the former is the site of a kiwi-conservation programme.
The Waikaremoana Holiday Park and the Aniwaniwa hamlet are both located on the lake’s shore along SH38, through which the lake is connected with Rotorua and Gisborne. Several walks start in Aniwaniwa, including a stroll to Aniwaniwa Falls. Lake Waikareiti is located 4 kilometres to the northeast. The nearest town is Wairoa, a 1-hour drive away.
Flora and Fauna
There are many bird species in the area, some of them rare in other regions of the North Island. The vast array of birds includes the tui, the wood pigeon, the kiwi, etc.
The forests also boast many understory plant species, like the crown fern. William Colenso (1811-1899) is one of the first scientists who studied lake-bottom molluscs.
The lake’s main fish species are the rainbow trout and the brown trout.
The Bathing Waters of the Ancestors
Tūhoe people refer to Lake Waikaremoana as the bathing waters of the ancestors. There is also a story about how the lake formed.
A rangatira name Māhu once lived, and he had many children. The whole family lived on the shores of the lake, at Waikotikoti. One day, Māhu asked his daughter Haumapuhia to go fetch some water, but she refused. The enraged Māhu drowned his daughter and she was turned into a taniwha (a creature that lives in deep lakes and rivers). In her intense longing to reach the sea, her efforts created the branches of the lake. Her last effort created the outlet at Onepoto. She remains in the form of a rock to this day, with the lake’s waters running through her body.
A Hydroelectric Power Station on a Modified Natural Dam
The natural dam has been subjected to intense engineering scrutiny, both before and after the construction of the Waikaremoana Hydroelectric Power Scheme, which is the only hydroelectric power station built on a natural dam.
The construction of an outlet tunnel through the slip began in 1935, but it was suspended the following year because it was considered risky and costly for the value. Consequently, in 1941, a new tunnelling scheme was devised and work began again in 1943. It continued for 5 years, after which the natural dam was sealed for leaks with 6 layers of crushed rock and pumice. This caused the natural flow to be reduced by 80%.
The 3 power stations (Kaitawa, Tuai and Piripaua) generate 138 megawatts, even though the Waikaretaheke River flows about 17 m³/s out of the lake. The Kaitawa station boasts a 250m head of water, which is among the highest in the world and the highest in New Zealand.